Jason Watkins hopes talking about daughter’s sepsis death helps raise awareness

Jason Watkins has said he hopes his family being “so open” about their grief following the death of their young daughter will encourage others to talk about bereavement while raising awareness about sepsis.

The Crown actor, 60, and his wife, Clara Francis, have opened up about the emotional experience of their daughter Maudie dying suddenly at age two and a half from the condition in a new ITV documentary which airs on Thursday at 9pm.

Jason & Clara: In Memory of Maudie also sees the couple speaking to medical professionals about how to detect sepsis and supporting other families who have lost a loved one.

At a screening for the documentary in London, Watkins told the PA news agency: “It’s celebrating and remembering her. There is the sort of campaigning side of it, the awareness of sepsis and more funding for sepsis awareness and clinical care.

“And then there is the real emotional side of losing a child within society generally, but then we’re sharing our families’ grief and our memories so there are lots of things going on.

“It’s funny, isn’t it, emotional things really do connect with people, and I hope us being so open as a family and a couple will encourage people to talk about bereavement within families, in all generations as well.

“So that perhaps older generations who are less inclined to talk about it, they can be able to extend their love. Because there’s a big thing of sweeping it under the carpet and just getting on with it. I think those days are gone.”

The couple decided now was the right time to explore the topic, 11 years on from the death of Maudie as they were in the process of moving house, the home where she was born and died.

In the documentary, Watkins remembers her as a “happy child, wise and centred” and explains she developed a chest infection around New Year in 2011 which was treated by her doctor with medication.

After her condition did not improve, they took her back to A&E where they were told she had a bad cold and croup before being discharged, but later that night she died at home.

It was only discovered later that she had developed sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection which occurs when your immune system overreacts to the ailment and starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs, according to the NHS website.

Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2016 – London
Jason Watkins and Clara Francis (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Francis said that their aim with the documentary was to raise awareness about the condition and to talk about child bereavement as they feel it is often a “taboo subject”.

The actress and fashion designer added: “There’s also an element where we’re kind of celebrating her, and in a funny sort of way she’s kind of alive again because everybody’s talking about her and they can witness her and that does feel really lovely.

“It does feel really special but bittersweet.”

The couple explained that they will never be able to get closure but they hope the documentary can help others while preserving her memory.

Watkins added: “One’s child is alive in your memory so it’s a matter of going back and excavating and finding, however, painful it is.

“And also sharing it, isn’t it? Sharing those memories and then they are as alive as they can be in your present world. Which is important for you and of course our other children.”

The couple share 15-year-old Bessie and 10-year-old Gilbert while Watkins also has two sons, Freddie and Pip, from his first marriage to actress Caroline Harding.

The NHS website warns that it can be difficult to detect sepsis as there are “lots of possible symptoms” and they can present like symptoms of other conditions, including flu or a chest infection.

It advises that if you think yourself, or someone you look after has symptoms of sepsis, to contact emergency services or go to A&E.

Jason and Clara: In memory of Maudie air on Thursday March 30 at 9pm on ITV1.